Monday, December 4

Boris Johnson refuses to resign in a challenge to his government and his party

Boris Johnson is once again reluctant to resign. In the last few hours, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has received the resignation of forty government positions from him and has heard criticism from members of his party in private and in public. After an intense day answering questions in Parliament, Johnson met half a dozen of his ministers in Downing Street on Wednesday night, who went to ask him in person to leave office.

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“He wants to stay and fight,” a Downing Street source told Guardian. “He says that millions of people voted for him two years ago and that he will fight until the end.”

Despite his words, Johnson’s hours may be numbered if the Conservative Party changes its rules and votes again on his leadership in the coming days, without waiting a year from the last vote to remove him, as the rules now state. On June 6, the prime minister narrowly survived his party’s motion against him.

Leader tory He is plunged into a new political crisis after the cascade of resignations in part due to the last of the scandals that have dotted his mandate, the management of the accusations of sexual harassment against the conservative deputy Chris Pincher.

This Wednesday, in the weekly question session before Parliament, Johnson also insisted that he had no intention of leaving. “The job of a prime minister in difficult times, in circumstances where he has been given a colossal mandate, is to carry on and that is what I am going to do,” he said.

At least 41 positions in his government resigned between Tuesday and Wednesday, including Economy Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Minister Sajid Javid, two heavyweights from the Conservative Party. In addition to part of his parliamentary group, this Wednesday several ministers asked Johnson to present his resignation. Sources close to Johnson said that the prime minister told them he did not want to resign to avoid “the chaos” of his replacement despite the fact that, if he stays, now facing a rout of your government. According to a government source, there were “tears” among the prime minister’s faithful in the afternoon, but at the last minute Johnson was described as “lively.”

In the midst of the crisis, the defiant Johnson fired Michael Gove, current Housing Minister, one of those who had asked him to leave office and one of the politicians closest to him since the Brexit campaign.

A deputy told the newspaper The Times that Johnson preferred a dramatic end to his term: “Think in classical terms. For him, there is no greater honor in a resignation than the fact that they kill you. If you are going to die, he dies fighting.”

Accumulation of scandals

Johnson came to power in July 2019, when he was foreign minister, after the party forced the fall of Theresa May, in the midst of Brexit negotiations, and won the general election in December of that year. His mandate has been marked by the turbulent talks for the official exit of the United Kingdom from the EU -which in recent months he has tried to question in a new confrontation with Brussels- and by the coronavirus pandemic, for which he himself was hospitalized in March 2020. Also for several scandals related to the lack of transparency about what the prime minister knew and what he did not know.

The latest controversy that has haunted Johnson is due to his handling of complaints about the behavior of Pincher, who resigned as head of the conservative training discipline after the revelation that he had groped two men in a private club without their consent. of London (the MP only said that he had “drank too much” and that he had “made a fool of himself”).

The prime minister acknowledged, after initially denying it, that he was aware that Pincher had been investigated in the past for inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Johnson admitted that it was “a mistake” to appoint Pincher to the job last February and apologized. “There is no place in this government for anyone to engage in predatory behavior or abuse his position of power,” he said in an interview Tuesday shortly before his ministers’ resignation announcements.

This scandal comes on top of the Conservatives’ poor performance in the last two special local elections and Downing Street celebrations that broke the strict pandemic lockdown rules that were in place in the UK for most of 2020 and 2021.

“Enough is enough,” Javid told Johnson at Parliament’s control session on Wednesday. “My conclusion is that the problem starts with the leader, and I think it will not change. And this means that he is up to us, the ones who have a responsibility to make that change.”

On June 6, Johnson overcame the vote called by the Conservative Party to question his leadership after the independent report documenting the lack of compliance with health rules to control the pandemic by various members of the Government, including celebrations in Downing Street in 2020 and 2021. Under current party rules, the prime minister cannot be put to another internal vote for another year, unless the rules are changed, which the Conservatives hope to do next week, when new deputies take control of the committee in charge.

And now that?

If Johnson resigns or is impeached, it is up to the Conservative Party to choose Johnson’s replacement until the next general election, originally scheduled for 2024. The last time the Tories they fired their premiereIn May’s case, the process took about six weeks.

Another possibility would be to call early elections, although this would require the agreement of both parties. Johnson could try to go to the queen and request the calling of elections, but since it would be so exceptional to do so against the will of her deputies, in that case, it is possible that Elizabeth II ignored the request of the prime minister and appointed another conservative , according to the indications of the party.